Games of their time: still something special

Have you ever felt like replaying a game you haven’t touched in years, and then felt slightly disappointed when you do? There’s an image of it in your mind and you remember what it like the first time you played – but are let down when what you’re playing now doesn’t match up.

I’ve had the opportunity to take part in several game-swaps with other bloggers this year and this has given me the chance to try some older releases I’ve not experienced before. First up was Luke from Hundstrasse, who sent me Whiplash for my PlayStation 2 after we decided to find the most bizarre retro titles we could. Next was Athena from AmbiGaming with whom I swapped favourite games, and you can find out what I made of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty in last Wednesday’s post.

In return, Athena bravely challenged herself to play Fable on her Twitch channel every week until she’d completed it. Work conference calls sometimes got in the way but I tuned in as often as I could and, watching her experience the title that had me back into gaming in my early 20s, I remembered a lot of fond memories and found myself wanting to play it again myself. That weekend I turned on our Xbox One, tracked down Fable Anniversary on Game Pass, hit the install button and waited eagerly with the controller in hand.

I’ll always love this series. I understand why it gets a lot of criticism in certain respects, one of them being that it never lived up to the expectations that the proclamations of designer Peter Molyneux set for it, but I can see past that. To me he was someone who was pushing the boundaries, being inventive, taking risks instead of churning out cardboard-copy titles and I can admire him for that; and there’s a chance that without Fable, I wouldn’t be a gamer today or be sitting here writing about my hobby.

Playing through the start of Fable Anniversary reminded me of how much the original title had pulled me in back in 2004. It was something to do with the land of Albion, its real-but-fantasy setting which felt like something out of a fairytale and made you believe the protagonist was destined for great things. It was the world’s inhabitants too: perhaps my favourite thing about them is the humour, and anyone who enjoys a Monty-Python-style of comedy is sure to find something here which appeals to them.

But damn, the controls were bad. Like, really bad. I didn’t remember it being like this before and had no trouble picking up the title all those years ago. But now the buttons felt as though they were back to front and I was behaving like an uncoordinated mess (more so than usual). Accessing the menus felt counter-intuitive, the items on the D-pad changed continuously and the camera never stayed where I wanted it to. No wonder Athena had remarked about the control scheme on a few occasions during her streams.

She also made a comment about certain releases being ‘games of their time’ during her next session on Twitch the following week and this really struck a chord with me. It completely hit the nail on the head when it came to the original Fable. Its story and humour were still current enough and the graphics didn’t let it down too much, plus it had been positively received when it had been released 16-years ago. But the controls had aged terribly and made playing the title sluggish, giving it a heavy and dated feeling.

I feel the same way whenever I turn on my PlayStation 2 nowadays. The console may have had some great releases but I dislike the controller immensely now, mainly because the jump button never seems like it’s in the right place. I had to hand it over to my other-half while playing Whiplash for my game-swap with Luke because there were certain bits I just couldn’t get to grips with; and I made the decision to play MGS2 on our Xbox for my collaboration with Athena, thinking it may be easier with a modern controller.

It didn’t help much though. I struggled with the way the protagonist insisted on sticking to walls whenever I got too close to them and he wouldn’t do certain actions unless I removed his weapon first. I may had had a few issues with my first Kojima game but as several people in the Twitch chat said to us: there was nothing on the market back in 2001 which was as cinematic or ambitious in what it was trying to deliver, so I can imagine it was something truly spectacular for players at the time.

I guess that’s what ‘games of their time’ are. They may feel old and outdated to us but, when you look back on what they managed to achieve when they we released, it’s clear there was something special about them. Without these titles we may not be where we are today in terms of narrative strength, innovative mechanics or impressive visuals and you can see their influence in many of today’s titles. We might not get the same feeling from playing them now but we’ve still got a lot to thank them for.

The next game-swap lined up is with Ellen from Ace Asunder. She was rather put off of full-motion video (FMV) after watching us play the strange Dark Nights with Poe and Munro in May so I’ve sent her copies of Her Story and The Madness of Doctor Dekker to prove that there are some good entries in the genre. In return she has gifted me Final Fantasy XIII to help me get over my aversion to turn-based combat, so we’ll see if we manage to convince each other to come around to the others’ way of thinking and open our eyes to new genres.

FFXIII was released in 2009 so it’s a little newer than the other titles I’ve played for game-swaps so far, relatively speaking. I’m curious to find out if it turns out to be another game of its time, and whether I’ll see what it is that makes it special for Ellen.

10 thoughts on “Games of their time: still something special

  1. I started up Dark Souls on the PC the other day, as I recall getting about halfway to three quarters in and never finishing it. I was ready to play it through from the start, before going on to Dark Souls 2 and 3 (which I’ve never touched yet.)

    I barely got past the tutorial before I started feeling super motion sick from the pixelated graphics and it not playing very well with a super widescreen resolution and keyboard/mouse controls that would have to be reconfigured with external third party patches. Faced with the task of fiddling with a bunch of patches and debating if I should plug in a controller and play with a personally less favored control scheme or struggle to get keyboard/mouse configured to satisfaction… I decided I might as well wait until someone, somewhere gave the Remastered edition away free or cheap in a bundle.

    If I wait even longer, I might get to the Demon Souls remastered edition first! (And then play the re-remastered versions of 1, 2, and 3 that will inevitably follow in ten years’ time.)


    • I think I’m going to leave Dark Souls to you… I remember playing through the first few hours of the first game some years ago and quite enjoying it; but then my other-half and I tried the third game last year, and got frustrated before we’d even made it through the tutorial. I guess that shows to show you just how little patience we have. 😆


  2. Agreed. For as much as I love(d) GTA: Vice City back in 2002, it IS NOT easy to play nowadays and has aged pretty poorly. I typically point to GoldenEye on the N64 as another game that feels quite dated.


    • We played Vice City for one of the streams during our 50-day challenge earlier this year, and I was kind of shocked at the graphics. I remember loving the 80s vibe back when it was released but now it just looks so old…

      I guess we’ve been pretty spoilt with how much video games have progressed and streamlined!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I really want to go back and play FF13. I played the first one when it released but I was rushing through to keep up with my friends. Now that I have less pressure on me, it might be worth a replay soon. The combat is turn based, but it’s not a strict turn based system like Dragon Quest or Persona. The system keeps you engaged and on your toes. I hope you enjoy!


    • It has certainly been an experience so far. I’m now about 10 hours in and I haven’t given up yet, so I’m taking that as a good sign! I encountered the first real difficulty spike earlier this week though and that was tough, so I’m not sure how I’m going to get on with the rest of the game – but we’ll see. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: The Interesting Case of Metal Gear Solid, or Groundbreaking Gaming – AmbiGaming

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